Mt Rainier

3-6 Jul 2000 - by Dan Johnson

Big news. I summited Mt. Rainier with the American Alpine Institute on July 5.

I did the 3 day Mt. Rainier preparatory course from June 29 - July 1. Then we climbed Rainier from July 3 - July 6.

12 people in the group and 10 made the summit. One guy got sick (vomiting, etc.) and had to be short roped back by one of the guides at 13,100 feet.

This was very, very hard and also quite scary at places. All in all, pretty dangerous thing to do even with the three guides.

Trip went like this (and it was a toughy):

July 3, 2000: Start at White River Campground (4,400 feet) at about 10:00 a.m. and hike up the Glacier Trail to Glacier Basin (5,900 feet). We then camped at Glacier Basin. Reviewed snow skills on the snowfields above camp for the rest of the day. Snow line was at about 5,000 feet, so by the time we reached Glacier Basin we were camping on 4 feet of snow. It snowed the whole day too.

July 4, 2000: Left Glacier Basin about 8:30 a.m. and planned to ascend to the Emmons Flats which are about 300 vertical feet above Camp Shurman at 9,700 feet. After ascending the snowfield above Glacier Basin, we reached the bottom of the Interglacier at about 7,300 feet. This is where we roped up. Didn't need crampons because of all the fresh snow. We then ascended the remaining 2,100 feet to Camp Shurman at 9,460 feet. Somewhere along here, the Interglacier meets up with the Emmon's glacier (largest glacier in the lower 48) and we followed that up to Camp Shurman. At Camp Shurman we had a pow wow with the two rangers on duty and then headed up the last 300 feet to the Emmons Flats where we planned to camp. Reached the Emmon's flats about 4:00 p.m. Probably about 10 tents there (25 - 30 people). Spent the rest of the night boiling water, setting camp, etc. Went to bed at 7:00 p.m.

July 5, 2000: Awakened at 12:00 midnight for our summit climb (on 5 poor hours of sleep). Got ready by 12:30 a.m. Totally clear night. First time you could see the mountain since we had been on the trip. About 15 degrees. Snow conditions were awesome for crampons. The stars at 9,700 feet are incredible. Even the lights from Seattle don't do much to dim them. We climbed and climbed and climbed. You have to belay/jump across crevasses about every half hour as you work your way up. Right out of camp you go up a snow field, take a left and get on a feature known as the Corridor. The Corridor takes you to about 11,500 feet. You then traverse right across the mountain and to a point directly above camp. The slope is very hard snow and some ice up to about 11,500 feet. After that, it is mostly hardened snow that has become almost pure ice. At about 11,500 feet (4 a.m.), the slope angle increases to about 35 to 40 degrees. A slip at that angle on ice is almost unarrestable so the guides are constantly harping on you to plant your crampons. In my opinion, slipping on these slopes is easily the most dangerous part of the whole climb, since the crevasses are easily belayed and generally very visible. Also, the snow bridges are very solid. We continued up these steeper slopes to about 13,100 feet. This is where the one climber (Jeff) and one of our guides headed back because Jeff was sick. About 7:00 a.m. now. At about 13,700 feet you reach the bergschrund (the highest crevasse on the glacier). We found it could be avoided by simply walking around it. These crevasses (now that it was daylight and you could see down them) are quite deep. Many, you could not see the bottom because the sun angle couldn't penetrate (hundreds of feet deep). The largest we had to jump was six feet wide where we leaped it. Others (that we didn't jump) were up to 25 feet wide. Above the bergschrund you climb up to about 14,100 feet. You then see the rocky summit above you. It's another 300 vertical feet up a rock path on the crater rim to the top. It was 9:30 a.m. Signed the register (my 30th highpoint), took a whole bunch of photos and did a lot of backslapping.

We left the summit about 10:00 a.m. Going down was much more scary than going up. The snow was softer and the footing was worse and you could now see all the crevasses and snowbridges you had to negotiate. Returned to the Emmon's Flats at 3:45 p.m. The climb had taken 15 hours and 15 minutes. Easily the hardest day physically I have ever had.

July 6, 2000: We left Emmon's Flats at 8:30 a.m. and reached the parking lot by 12:00 noon. Went quick because we were able to glissade a good portion of the way.


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